Long COVID-19 linked to autoimmune diseases, Canadian study shows – National

Some long-term COVID patients with symptoms such as fatigue and shortness of breath show signs of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, suggests a Canadian study building on similar findings elsewhere.

Manali Mukherjee, who led the study and is a respiratory researcher at McMaster University in Hamilton, said two specific abnormal antibodies, or autoantibodies, that attack healthy tissues and are known to cause autoimmune diseases persisted in a year after. about 30 percent of patients. they got infected.

The study was based on blood samples from patients diagnosed with COVID-19 between August 2020 and September 2021, who were receiving care at two hospitals in Vancouver and another in Hamilton.

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The persistence of autoantibodies for a year or more points to the need for patients to see a specialist who can test for signs of autoimmune disease, she said about conditions that also include type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

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“If you have long-term COVID symptoms, even 12 months after getting COVID, consider getting a rheumatology check-up just to make sure there is no pathway to systemic disease,” Mukherjee said.

The study, which also included Dr. Chris Carlsten, from the Department of Respiratory Medicine at the University of British Columbia, was published Thursday in the European Respiratory Journal and involved 106 patients.

The work supports emerging research into long-term COVID, which primarily affects women, Mukherjee said.

A study of 300 patients published earlier this year in the journal Cell by researchers in the United States was the first to show that autoantibodies among those infected with the virus can lead to long-lasting COVID symptoms, but this was limited. up to three to four months after recovery, Mukherjee said.


Click to play video: 'Public health officials attempt to determine total number of Canadians with long-term COVID'







Public health officials trying to determine the total number of Canadians with long-term COVID


Public health officials trying to determine the total number of Canadians with long-term COVID – June 3, 2022

A Swiss study of 90 patients published last April in the journal Allergy suggested that autoantibodies may be present in 40 percent of patients one year after infection.

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“But this study confirms the presence of specific autoantibodies and is further associated with persistent fatigue and shortness of breath, two key long-term COVID symptoms, after 12 months,” she said.

Mukherjee, who contracted long-term COVID herself in January 2021 after beginning her research into the disease, said she suffered from fatigue, shortness of breath, headaches and brain fog.

“The headache used to be so bad, and it’s coming back. You’ll be fine, and then you suddenly have a relapse,” she said, adding that she’s back to about 75 percent of her usual energy level, but has learned to prioritize her health over long days of work and make sure she’s getting enough. gets sleep.

Mukherjee is now studying long-term COVID patients for two years to see how their levels of autoantibodies change over the longer term.

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Calgary resident Sarah Olson said long COVID has prevented her from returning to her job as a kindergarten teacher since she contracted the illness in January 2021.

“There is no such thing as persevering. You just get sicker and sicker in new ways,” says Olson, who has a nine-year-old son and an 11-year-old daughter and has been dealing with brain fog, fatigue, shortness of breath and other symptoms.

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“Until this spring I couldn’t stand still for long, but I could walk at a moderate pace. Now I can’t. I need a walker. I will be 41 on Saturday and I need a walker.”

Olson said she has also been diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis, or chronic fatigue syndrome, although Mukherjee said there is no definitive link between that debilitating, long-term condition and long-term COVID.

Olson said the biggest concern is that she will never recover from prolonged COVID.

“If I’m unable to control my symptoms by resting and pacing as much as I need to without ever getting stressed, then I have every reason to believe I’m only going to get worse,” she said. through tears.

“The research needs to reach a breakthrough because they’re still trying to understand what the underlying cause is,” Olson said, adding that treatment options are still a long way off.

“We are almost three years later and we are still in the dark in many ways.”


© 2022 The Canadian Press

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